NASA, University of Maryland join forces on food security
NASA has tapped the University of Maryland to lead a new consortium focused on putting satellite data to use to enhance food security and agriculture around the world.
The Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium (EOFSAC) will combine the expertise of more than 40 partners to advance the use of Earth observations in informing decisions that affect the global food supply.
Food security is the challenge, particularly in developing countries, of ensuring reliable access to affordable and healthy food. NASA satellite data has long been used to study crop conditions globally, but this new office represents a more targeted effort to enhance the utility of satellite data to people around the world.
The consortium will partner with the Food Security Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and will be led by Inbal Becker-Reshef, of the University of Maryland's Department of Geographical Sciences, College Park.
"NASA's observations of Earth's complex natural environment are critical to understanding the global food system. Through this partnership NASA is interested in how uses of remote sensing data can enhance organizations' planning and operations, and support broader food security assessments, commodity pricing, risk assessments, and policy analysis," said Christa Peters-Lidard, deputy director for hydrosphere, biosphere and geophysics in the Earth Sciences Division at Goddard.
The consortium's core objectives are to enhance the use of Earth observations by key decision and policymakers, which can:
- increase food security and resilience
- reduce food price volatility and vulnerability
- improve awareness and understanding of the applications of NASA's and other satellite data products by users from a wide range of sectors.
"Events such as food price spikes and food shortages related to severe weather illustrate the risks associated with knowledge gaps around food production and supply," said Becker-Reshef, associate research professor and co-lead of the university's Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research. "Satellite data can help identify areas vulnerable to things like drought, flooding and fire; as well as variability in soil, crop conditions, and yield status. The goal of this new consortium is to get this data into the hands of more people making decisions about agriculture and food production."
NASA awarded the EOFSAC a total of $14.5 million over a five-year period through its Research Opportunities in Earth and Space Science grant program. The consortium aligns with NASA's priority to make its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues such as food security, changing freshwater availability and human health.
This innovative effort will bring together top researchers, humanitarian aid organizations, economists, policymakers, agribusiness, defense and intelligence specialists, high-tech companies, financial experts and other disciplines and sectors. Collaborators include other U.S. institutions such as University of California Santa Barbara, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, University of Vermont, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and a range of international organizations, United Nations organizations and ministries in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Argentina and Canada.
"This innovative program will harness expertise from around the world to develop new solutions to challenges facing the global food supply," said Chris Justice, chair of the University of Maryland's Department of Geographical Sciences and scientific lead for the consortium. "Providing decision-makers with access to timely, objective, accurate and actionable information can strengthen food security, market stability and human livelihoods."
For more than five decades, NASA has used the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA brings together technology, science, and unique global Earth observations to provide societal benefits and strengthen our nation. These observations are openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues such as changing freshwater availability, food security and human health.